Gaming Security

The Worst Security & Malware Threats for Online Gamers

Joel Lee 31-03-2015

One night you’re playing video games, the next morning your bank accounts have been emptied. It seems like a farfetched scenario that has no chance of happening to you, right? That’s what everyone thinks right before they have their identities stolen 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore Identity theft isn't too rare of an occurrence these days, yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that it'll always happen to "someone else". Don't ignore the warning signs. Read More .


As the gaming industry continues to pull in multibillion-dollar revenues, hackers and scammers are salivating at the chance to steal a cut of the pie. In 2014, PC/MMO gaming revenue broke $24 billion and mobile gaming revenue broke $21 billion. With all of that money comes a lot of greedy hands.

Don’t become a victim. Stay smart, stay alert, and stay protected against the worst security and malware threats to gamers like you and me.

Spoofing & Phishing

The idea of spoofing may be somewhat alien to the average person, let alone the average gamer, but there’s a good chance you’ve run into it at some point or another. In short, spoofing is a colloquial term for “trickery by imitation” of which the most well-known example is phishing.

For those who don’t know, phishing is a scamming technique What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More that involves copycat websites or fraudulent URLs as a way to trick users into entering login credentials (e.g. for gaming accounts) and sensitive personal data (e.g. credit card numbers).

Once entered, the phisher retains all of that information in his database.



Spoofed websites have been around for a long time, but spoofing techniques are becoming more advanced. For example, there are social media bots that monitor social media chatter for gamers in need of technical support, then direct those users to spoofed websites where they need to enter their login credentials (and thus give them away without knowing it).

How to stay safe: Phishing is very popular in emails, so borrow from these email security tips 8 Essential Email Security Tips You Should Know by Now Everyone should know these essential email security tips and put them in practice to protect their most important accounts. Read More and never click links directly. If you’re asked to log in by a company, always type in the website’s URL by hand. For complex links, use these link checker tools 7 Quick Sites That Let You Check If a Link Is Safe Before clicking a link, use these link checkers to check that it doesn't lead to malware or other security threats. Read More to see if they’re safe before you visit them.

Malicious File Downloads

Malware is the worst thing on the Internet. At best, it’s an inconvenience that can steal away hours of your life as you remove that malware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More . At worst, it can destroy your device(s), cause you to lose important files and data, or even rob you of your identity.


Gaming is a download-heavy activity, particularly if you do most of your gaming on a PC. You’ve got installer files, anti-cheats, third-party modifications, in-game interface tweaks, etc. While you’ll be fine 99% of the time, there’s always that 1% chance that you’ll get served a fake, malicious file.


And what’s the worst kind of malware to contract? Keyloggers. A keylogger is a program that sits in the background and records your keystrokes, which are then sent to a remote server somewhere for analysis. In essence, keyloggers are used to steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and more.

For example, bots on Twitch.TV have sprung up and started spreading unwanted programs — including a personal data scraper and an adware virus — through chat channel links. In addition, fake third-party Twitch.TV tools exist designed to imitate actual tools but are nothing more than malware in disguise.


How to stay safe: Always have some kind of free antivirus program The 10 Best Free Antivirus Software No matter what computer you're using, you need antivirus protection. Here are the best free antivirus tools you can use. Read More installed and be sure to follow these common sense tips for avoiding malware downloads 7 Common Sense Tips to Help You Avoid Catching Malware The Internet has made a lot possible. Accessing information and communicating with people from far away has become a breeze. At the same time, however, our curiosity can quickly lead us down dark virtual alleys... Read More . Also, scan your system every so often using these anti-keylogger tools Don't Fall Victim to Keyloggers: Use These Important Anti-Keylogger Tools In cases of online identity theft, keyloggers play one of the most important roles in the actual act of stealing. If you’ve ever had an online account stolen from you - whether it was for... Read More to ensure that nobody is recording your keystrokes.

Social Engineering Scams

Social engineering What Is Social Engineering? [MakeUseOf Explains] You can install the industry’s strongest and most expensive firewall. You can educate employees about basic security procedures and the importance of choosing strong passwords. You can even lock-down the server room - but how... Read More became something of an Internet buzzword a few years ago, but the underlying concept is as old as humanity. Simply put, it’s a form of manipulation that gets the victim to divulge confidential information all on their own.

In gaming communities, social engineering is used to scam people of their accounts, their virtual goods, or their credit card numbers. Depending on the circumstances, there can be a lot of overlap with Facebook scams How to Identify a Facebook Scam Before It's Too Late Facebook scams are all the rage, and they can sneak up on you. Here are some warning signs to look out for so you don't get caught in one. Read More , Craigslist scams Taking the Battle to Craigslist Scammers: How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist Launched way back in 1995, Craigslist took the Internet world by storm with its innovative cross of classified ads with the web. But as with all Internet-based transactions, some users prefer to game the system... Read More , and eBay scams 10 eBay Scams to Be Aware Of Being scammed sucks, especially on eBay. Here are the most common eBay scams you need to know about, and how to avoid them. Read More .



Steam is a good example of this. While Steam itself is a massive cornerstone in PC gaming, the Steam community is rarely deserving of praise 9 Common Steam Community Violations And How To Report Them People have repeatedly shown that, when given anonymity on the Internet, they'll do terrible things to each other. This is why gaming communities like Steam have set up community rules to keep things civil. Read More . There are lots of scammers out there — most, but not all, are bots — that trick users into giving away their items, cards, gifts, and even entire accounts.

Any time you participate in a real money transaction or virtual trade, you’re putting yourself at risk. That holds true whether you’re trading Steam cards or purchasing black market gold for World of Warcraft. And then there’s EVE Online, where social engineering is actually part of the gameplay New to EVE Online? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do Unlike most MMORPGs, EVE Online doesn't hold you by the hand and guide you along with signposts. You need to forge your own destiny or die trying. Read More .

How to stay safe: Most anti-scam advice is the same regardless of the medium. Never give out your usernames or passwords. Don’t click links from untrusted sources. However, we do advise that you also adhere to these tips for mitigating social engineering attacks How To Protect Yourself Against Social Engineering Attacks Last week we took a look at some of the main social engineering threats that you, your company or your employees should be looking out for. In a nutshell, social engineering is similar to a... Read More .

Database Breaches

You’ve probably heard of it by now. In 2011, several major databases owned by Sony were compromised by hackers, including but not limited to the databases used for the PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment.

The final tally? 102 million affected accounts. At least 12 million of those accounts involved unencrypted credit card information.


Then in 2014, a group of sixteen hackers in South Korea spoofed six major online gaming sites and stole the login credentials of over 27 million people. They used the credentials to steal various forms of in-game virtual currency, eventually costing $2 million worth of damage to the South Korean economy.

How to stay safe: Realize that no company in the world is ever 100% secure. There will always be some level of risk when you use your credit card online. Sometimes these breaches are outside of your control, but here’s what you can do to best protect yourself against online identity theft 3 Online Fraud Prevention Tips You Need To Know In 2014 Read More .

Stay Safe Out There!

Of course, on top of everything mentioned above you should be practicing good security habits Change Your Bad Habits & Your Data Will Be More Secure Read More like setting up a firewall, staying up-to-date with the latest software versions, being wary of anything that seems too good to be true, and never sharing your accounts with others.

Has your security ever been compromised due to an online game? Have you ever faced any of these issues? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Image Credits: Gamer playing Via Shutterstock, Twitter Shot Via Shutterstock, Downloading Graphic Via Shutterstock, PlayStation 4 Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Online Games, Online Security.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Ed
    April 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Just don't use a computer. Gavin's friends can't be wrong! Stay safe!

  2. Gavin
    April 1, 2015 at 11:38 am

    Unfortunately, many people don't have common sense, and never check that anything is trustworthy and believe everything they see. There's also a difference between playing multi-player games on a LAN and on the internet. LAN gaming is fine as you're with people you trust (unless you're at LAN parties).

    • Joel Lee
      April 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Everyone on the Internet should always have a healthy dose of skepticism about everything. We're far too trusting and reckless with our information, for sure.

  3. Nick
    March 31, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Don't play online games? in 2015? Really? Common sense will go along way. Make sure any file is from a trusted site from a trusted individual. I've been playing multi-player games 10 years or more and never had a problem from playing them.

    • dragonmouth
      April 3, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      "Make sure any file is from a trusted site from a trusted individual."
      I suppose these sites and individuals wear a badge saying "I CAN Be Trusted"?

  4. Gavin
    March 31, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    My best advice us to stay clear of online games. In other words, if the game requires an internet connection to play, don't play it. This includes those single player games, that require you to connect to the internet only for updates and/or activation. Although, I agree, it's more fun to play against/with live human players than NPCs.

    • Joel Lee
      April 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      That's definitely one option. However, I'm curious: do you avoid ALL kinds of online activity that require personal accounts? Do you shop online? Bank online? Pay your taxes online? If so, why do you trust those but draw the line at gaming?